The Last ICCA AGM of the 20th Century
The Four Seasons Hotel
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
September 3rd through September 9th, 1999
After Farewell to Siena
Dear Reader, not only will this be the last annual meeting of the ICCA before the twenty-first century, but this September is also the last time in this century that we will be able to celebrate the birthdays and deathdays of a number of people who were fortunate enough to be born or to die during these magic days of 3-9 September ... in whatever year.
Furthermore, some anniversaries of great events in history will likewise inexorably trod this same path into the margins of time.
Whether you celebrate the birth of Comte de Buffon (naturalist) ... or grieve over the death of Charles Burgess Fry (cricketer) ... or sadly note the anniversary of the day that the first V2 landed in England (1944) ... this Writer hopes that you will treasure these little circles on the calendar.
Let's start with today: September 1st. Though this is not a travel day for me, I am definitely making noises in that direction. Things like ... (a) doing the last laundry (b) going to the bank (c) paying piled up bills (d) getting a haircut ... are all on my check list. But, since there is not an awful lot of voltage in these chores let me pump NEWNES DICTIONARY OF DATES AND ANNIVERSARIES dry.
But, before I start permit me to offer this quote from the compiler of NEWNES, Robert Collison:
"Some of the entries may, in comparison with their neighbors, seem trivial, but it does seem that life being not wholly serious there is scope for items which, in spite of their poor claim to immortality, have an immediate interest for the curious."
Dear Reader, now that I have deluged you with more NEWNES stuff than usual, I feel that it I owe it to you to share even more dross with you. You see, not only has the wise compiler of NEWNES gone to a great effort to list all of life's things in chronological order, he has also (albeit in another section of the book) amplified what he squeezes here into but a single line. Let me clarify this. Perhaps your eye caught the fact that in 1870 there was this Siege of Metz that started exactly 129 years ago. And you puzzled yourself with: "Fair enough ... but, what is this Metz place?" Well, after a few page flips our compiler is allowed to expansively observe that it was the site of a siege during the Franco-Prussian War, and that the poor people of Metz did without food and water from 1 Sept. to 28 Oct. 1870. And, should you also be curious about Zerah Colburn, our compiler will happily volunteer that Zerah was an American who bored his friends by multiplying hundred digit numbers by hundred digit numbers ... before his mind finally exploded into a froth of numerals and decimals at age 36.
Here follows the organizer's preview of what excitements they have planned for us during the upcoming week. Addicts Bert Giulian and Howard Luterman (along with "go-withs" Maureen Giulian and Shelia Luterman) will be our minders for this event.
My US Airways flight to Philadelphia is scheduled to leave Fort Lauderdale at noon. But, I am not terribly sanguine about its on-time departure as South Florida has been mercilessly attacked by thunderstorms every afternoon since I have been home. Since I don't have to change planes en route and as there is nothing pressing on the ICCA agenda until tonight I should weather any delay without too much fret.
Oh, yes! There will be quite a few of us at Philadelphia this year. Well, if 50% attendance qualifies as a goodly number then we have met the mark. Anyway, here is the list:
* Addicts who will be accompanied by a "go-with" or someone else.
** Addicts who were scheduled to be accompanied by a "go-with" or someone else ... but, for some reason or another are no longer going to be accompanied by a "go-with" or someone else. "Go-with" substitutes will be provided.
*** Honorary Addicts.
Dear Reader, for several years now I have relied upon my NEWNES and/or The International Herald Tribune for my daily jumping-off point. Though both of these sources certainly provide convenient sticking pins on which to start the day…many times the recall of this odd day in history is only amusing to people such as mapmakers or distant heirs. I mean, if a big patch of unsowed equatorial green caught the attention of some 17th century colony builder, is it not only the mapmaker who today nods at the memory of pink ink coming off some ancient cartographer's touch-up shelf? And, does anyone else but a far away dot on the bloodline really care that John Howard, prison reformer, was born 273 years ago yesterday? I think not.
Therefore, rather than seek out something that happened exactly so many years ago, I am going to ferret about in old copies of THE TIMES for colorful bits of information for today's readers. This is an experiment. If you don't like it, please let me know.
Here it starts.
DEATH OF A MOUSE
From Sir Charles Jeffries
[Joint Deputy Under-Secretary of State, Colonial Office 1947 - 1956]
Several years ago I bought a very ingenious mousetrap which actually caught one mouse. The cheese was placed in a cage approached through a small doorway. When the mouse had entered, the door automatically closed behind him. When, bored with trying to get at the cheese, he sought to depart, the only way open was up a sloping tunnel. At the top he came out on to a platform, which tipped over under his weight and deposited him in a tank of water. As the platform returned to level, it released a catch which opened the front door for the next victim. It is only fair to the mice to say that the one caught by this apparatus was too young to know any better.
C. J. JEFFRIES
October 31, 1949
Well, what do you think?
The clock has "ticked". Ticked long enough for me to drive to the airport and fly to Philadelphia aboard US Airways #1836. I don't know whether it is advancing years or declining taste; but airline food seems to be getting better. Of course, the pilots have also been getting younger and the stewardesses have been getting prettier. I'm not sure which I fear most: my own internal clock moving towards midnight or my palate not being picky. Maybe both go hand and foot.
Our organizers certainly made a good decision when they decided to hold the AGM at the Four Seasons. This hotel group operates not only the Four Seasons properties but the Regent chain of hotels as well. Hey, I am very pleased with the start of this thing.
But now that the show has started I must plague you, Dear Reader, with a few housekeeping tidbits. This is just for the record; it's not for your light reading so please feel free to skip ahead of these droll parts…you can probably go directly to Saturday where you should find something clever from the archives of The Times.
Anyway, between the time that the first attendee list was published in July and right now there have been some important additions and some subtractions in our body count ... plus a number of emendations with respect to "go-withs." Also some minor program changes. Here goes:
The balance of today will be:
The balance of today was just that.
I once purchased, in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, and at ruinous expense, an elderly musket about five feet long and with a stock riddled with woodworm. I wrapped it most carefully in copies of the airmail edition of The Times and drove home with it.
Of course, it arrived in one piece. But I was even more impressed by the fact that at innumerable border posts on the journey, from a Turkish Nissen hut to a wet and crowded Dover at four in the morning, The Times seemed to insulate it completely from more than a cursory glance from a comprehensive selection of Europe's customs officers. I cannot say, Sir, what might have happened had I sought the protection of a lesser journal.
May 3, 1974
I suppose this transition from NEWNES to the innards of The Times should be gradual.
But, here is what all of you have been waiting for: today's bill of fare at the ICCA.
Unfortunately, all of the above was totally spoiled by a rude Icelandic interloper who, having been separated from his own tour group, wedded himself to our little band. The Danish masters of his little island knew full well the wastefulness of giving decent alcohol to their subjects; but apparently this fellow smelled the fine wine on our agenda. Once he got a whiff of that there was no banishing him back to his boorish brethren with their menu of salted reindeer and muddled mead, or whatever grog they use to wash down their own foul meats.
What a coincidence!
But, not so interesting or relevant:
From Sir Stephen Tallents
[an eminent civil servant whose interests included the collection of thistledown for pillows and the science and art of scything]
May I, as an executor of the grey squirrel whose fatal crossing of my lawn and successful emergence in a casserole you recorded on December 2, thank you for the posthumous fame which your obituary notice brought to the deceased?
Its canonization began with telephone inquiries from several of your London contemporaries and a local paper's request for a biography of our cook. Then, with some appeals for advice, recipes began to arrive. Some of their kindly senders drew from American cookery books: others recorded personal experiments, and the Ministry of Agriculture and the Wine and Food Society both contributed. One correspondent registered on an anonymous post-card contempt for the 'clodhopper' who would take a gun to a squirrel. Another reported more than 150 Chiltern squirrels stalked and shot within a few months by a man with a .22 rifle. Yet another experienced hunter advised the sinking of a baited barrel in the ground. From Surrey I heard of Canadian troops astonished at our neglect of squirrel meat. Was I wrong in detecting an echo of the saga when Lord Marshmallow's heir, at the high point of his Christmas shooting party, located two squirrels in the home covert (ruthlessly exposed by Mr. Gillie Potter as 'holly bush behind the wood shed')?
A resident of the Channel Islands told how during the occupation he tricked the Gestapo man, in return for hints about the stalking of inferior prey, into giving him the grey squirrels he shot. A British officer writing from Serembam, in Malaya, described how a growing queue of villagers, begging him in four different tongues to kill for their supper the pest that was damaging their coconut trees, embarrassed his shooting. A handsome private Christmas card was sent to me, which had chanced to include a quotation from Brillat-Savarin commending these squirrels as 'highly prized' in Connecticut, and describing how six or seven of them, which his party shot, were stewed in Madeira and served at a 'distinguished reception.' A correspondent in Lyons sent me independently the precise reference of this quotation. Several writers recalled nostalgically feasts of fried or roasted squirrel in the hill-billy country of the Southern States. An admirably vivid letter from the editor of the Talladega Daily Home reported that the creature was still regarded in the woods of Alabama as 'one of our major game animals' and 'something of a delicacy.' The country folk there cherished their 'squirrel dogs,' the best of them often mongrels, trained to ignore all other breeds of game.
I am today richer by much new knowledge and several good dinners. I needed no such proof that, to students of an obscure subject, a letter published in The Times was as good as a traveling scholarship. It had not occurred to me, till a puzzled railwayman delivered at our door a timely bunch of grey corpses from a Sussex shoot, that it could also be an insurance against meat ration deficiencies during the lorry-drivers' strike.
January 25, 1947
[The heir to the Hogsnorton estate was, of course, Twister Marshmallow]
Dear Reader, I am sure that you will agree with me that The Times is truly timeless.
Today is the Sabbath. Apparently our masters have not thought this through; there is no free time built into our agenda for a proper prayer service. Maybe, we were supposed to fit that in yesterday while we were at Christ Church. Whatever!
Well, almost. There is some unfinished business here. Maureen Giulian has of yet to pull together all of the threads from what she has seen of the design sketches of Corkscrew-Balloon #3. How do they all connect, Maureen? A knowledge of what is buried in the dusty cellars of the English patent office is not needed ... nor will a read of the standard works be of any help. The picture is right there, Maureen.
Oh, thank you for the bear, Maureen.
Among the minor reforms that are coming would not the suppression of 'Esquire' in general and business correspondence be welcomed? It is a relic of mid-Victorian snobbery, and has little or nothing to commend it. I believe the United Kingdom is the only part of the Empire that uses it.
November 14, 1941
How right Mr. Loughlan Pendred is in denouncing the use of this word as 'a relic of mid-Victorian snobbery' and in demanding its 'suppression'! But why does he not go further? Is not our all too frequent utterance or inscription of the word 'Mr' an equally gross survival from an era which men of good will can hardly mention without embarrassment and shame? I do hope that Pendred will go further.
Your obedient servant,
November 17, 1941
Beerbohm's suggestion that that the prefix 'Mr' should be abolished does not go far enough. We are still left with our surnames, and this is undemocratic. I demand that we should all be called by the same name, as plain a one as possible. If this should render difficult the filling up of forms, a number could be attached to each - or rather the same - name.
November 21, 1941
And, now demoted to second tier status:
At first blush, yes. But even while I was typing out these obscure anniversaries from NEWNES, no more popular authority than CNN itself was going on and on about the good works of Jane Addams. Of course, you could chalk that up to just a slow news day for Atlanta ... after all, Dennis has been downgraded from hurricane status to that of a mere "traffic snarler" ... all the signatures are finally on the latest document out of Palestine ... and though East Timor is heating up for THEM, the place really is so far away, and anyway, those people being killed over there don't look very much like US.
Well, it's time for breakfast.
I missed it all! The chocolates ... the corkscrews ... the global cuisine!
I didn't want to stay behind; but something that I can't really put my finger on kept me off that bus today to Hershey, PA. It wasn't the threat of winds from Dennis ... and it wasn't my distaste for chocolate. What could it have been? My computer has been nervous for the past day or so ... it keeps trying to adjust its calendar. Something funny is happening. I don't like it one damn bit.
So much has been said recently about the ill-effects of smoking. But if the British could only take to smoking the various forms of Indian hookah, then there would be no danger of ill-health. For, in the hookah, all tobacco smoke passes through a vessel which is filled with water en route to the smoker's mouth. All nicotine is left in that water and none reaches the mouth.
HUGH RHYS RANKIN
May 13, 1954
[BR (Southern Region) state that rush-hour commuters will be expected to rest hookahs on their laps]
These are the details about our last day "on the road." During our remaining ICCA days in Philadelphia we will be mercifully confined to the Four Seasons Hotel.
This is really strange. I have never seen my IBM ThinkPad so jittery. Of late it hasn't been "sleeping" well at all; the night before last the disk drive kept searching for something ... and last night it just sat there glowing at the wall. I am more than just a little worried. But, I can't let it get to me. I've got to get out of the house (hotel) today. Maybe if it is left alone it will work things out.
It is now hours later.
This day needed nothing more than a visit to the Mercer Museum to make the day a day worth living. And of all the zillions of things that Mr. Mercer stuffed into his concrete castle none were more worthy of entry than (1) the Vampire Killing Kit and (2) the vaginal suppository mold.
Both of these "artifacts of pre-industrial America" were almost lost to my eye. And, one of them surely would have never felt my amazed stare had it not been for a gentle elbow nudge by Rosalie Weinberg. Out of the side of her mouth she confided that her father used to hand roll his own vaginal suppositories. Eventually destined for his wife, and other female members of the family, these waxy things contained a proprietary formula that promised to halt the charge of nuisance minded sperms once they had been ejaculated from their warm cage.
Probed further, Rosalie admitted that she owes her own existence to the "failure" of one of these paraffin missiles. She speculated that the secret bonding agent (puff adder venom?) was accidentally left missing from the suppository that was fired in her direction.
The other useful item in the Mercer collection is a "Vampire Killing Kit." Handsomely boxed in mahogany it comes with four obvious essentials for safe nocturnal travel in Eastern Europe: (1) a pistol with several silver bullets (2) an ample supply of powdered and liquid garlic (3) a sharpened stake and (4) a compact ivory crucifix with a dual purpose pointed end.
Mysteriously, the "Vampire Killing Kit" also contains a magnifying glass. Perhaps this could be used as a prophylactic by bringing concentrated sunlight to bear upon the portable caskets in which the Draculas of the day dozed during the bright hours. Thus able to "peep" into coffin cracks, the fatal rays could do their job with a minimum of fuss. This magnifying glass could also be helpful in diagnosing the cause of untoward deaths. Any bodies found in unexpected locations or at awkward times could easily be checked for tiny puncture wounds in the jugular area.
The museum housed other things as well: old wheels, wood hoes, toll gates and assorted rusty stuff.
The day dragged on with several meals.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture stated in Parliament recently that the amount of oats issue to racehorses in April was 556 tons, which was considered a comparatively small quantity of grain to divert from human consumption. He did not say, however, that it would have been an adequate grain ration for 300,000 hens which, in April, would have laid at least 6,000,000 eggs.
T. L. WARD
June 1, 1946
And what do our masters have in store for us?
A day at the hotel, dedicated to corkscrews.
The auction was moved up in time to 11:00AM.
The AGM was pushed back until 1:30PM.
And it was in this last sentence, during agenda item 9b, that I suffered deserved humiliation. Section 9b dealt with the Frank MacDonald Award: a prize for the Addict who produced the "Best Six" photograph during the preceding year. As a winner of this award a few years back I was automatically fed into the committee that had the job of coming up with a name for the next year. Well, that was easy enough last year as I wasn't chairman and thus there was someone around to remind me to have a look at the pictures for that next year. Unfortunately, my name floated to the top of the committee this year. And, I forgot all about it. When the time came to make the award I came up empty handed.
Next year, in 2000, we will meet in Berlin. By then my name will have floated out of committee and I can go back to being my forgetful self.
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I am embarking on a project to teach a young African French, and allow him to practice typing at the same time. But is there a French equivalent for "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog"?
NEVILL H. NEW
September 21, 1953
On the margin of the instruction card of a portable typewriter I bought in Calcutta in May, 1949, was typed: "Zoe ma grande fille veut que je boive ce whiskey dont je ne veux pas."
Your obedient servant,
E. A. PATERSON
September 23, 1953
Dear Reader, I just have the feeling that the balance of September, for me, is going to be very unusual. Something is really cooking behind the scenes around here. I don't know what ... but, something is happening. Please come back tomorrow and see if I am right.
Maybe I should be thankful for the little that I have left to do on today's Spartan menu…and take advantage of the rest.
And so ends this last ICCA of the 20th century.
The first ICCA meeting of the 21st century will meet in Berlin, Germany, next September.